The unforeseen
December 16, 2008 4:14 AM   Subscribe

On Dec 14, the often-linked Clay Shirky (most recently) ended his guestblogging stint at boingboing with a question for the commenters: What's going to happen in the next five years or so that will catch most of the rest of us by surprise, but not you?

142 comments so far, ranging from apocalyptic visions to thoughts on standby power and the future of Mormonism.

Predicting even the near term is difficult, of course, much less anticipating the unthinkable. Still: what surprises won't be surprising you?
posted by finnb (87 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Recording devices will be licensed or outlawed.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:19 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

My plan will come to fruition.

I've said too much already.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:31 AM on December 16, 2008 [11 favorites]

You are all going to be surprised that I was right about being the only one remaining unsurprised at this prediction.
posted by DU at 4:43 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Clay Shirky will be exposed as a crowdsource of autonomous biological entities, which he will christen 'cells'. They will die off and replicate, maintaining the integrity of the higher-level entity.
posted by davemee at 4:46 AM on December 16, 2008 [14 favorites]

I was going to say the same thing the 13th poster did -- that the Republican party will split up and give way to some third party.
posted by creasy boy at 4:50 AM on December 16, 2008

I predict that Faint of Butt will be extremely annoyed when I bring his plan to fruition full of errors but three weeks earlier than him.
posted by mandal at 5:01 AM on December 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

I predict Metafilter's front page will give in to chatfilter.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:02 AM on December 16, 2008

The Rapture will continue to Not Happen.
posted by kcds at 5:03 AM on December 16, 2008

Sharks will jump sharks!
posted by cavalier at 5:03 AM on December 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

Ethan Hawke will win an Oscar.
posted by Elmore at 5:11 AM on December 16, 2008

Shirky is a Metafilter whack-a-mole. Knock him down yesterday and he pops up today.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:12 AM on December 16, 2008

What's going to happen in the next five years or so that will catch most of the rest of us by surprise, but not you?
That this is deleted as chatfilter within the next few hours or whenever the mods get out of bed.
posted by adamvasco at 5:35 AM on December 16, 2008

I predict Boing Boing will morph into a 2 foot by 2 foot brass cube, covered with old watch and clock parts, steam valves, and dials... and will do nothing but scream "CORY" over and over while flashing pictures of some odd looking blond woman...
posted by HuronBob at 5:40 AM on December 16, 2008 [20 favorites]

The phrase "Jesus christ, it's December 16 2013, it feels like it's still 2010! Where did that go?" will be uttered, a lot.
posted by davemee at 5:44 AM on December 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

I predict Boing Boing will morph into a 2 foot by 2 foot brass cube, covered with old watch and clock parts, steam valves, and dials... and will do nothing but scream "CORY" over and over while flashing pictures of some odd looking blond woman...
posted by HuronBob at 10:40 PM on December 16

I'd strongly prefer that, actually.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:55 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've read plenty of Joan Aiken's Victorian-era alternative history fiction, written before the term 'steampunk' was invented, and enjoyed it.
However, the problem with most steampunk is that the characters don't have the Victorian worldview that created the Victorian era: Instead, we see a hodgepodge of characters with modern-day attitudes towards... well, everything thrown into a world of bustles, brass, six-shooters and lots of zeppelins (it's not steampunk without zeppelins) and call it good. It's all so... weak.

That's why all the predictions on BoingBoing about steampunk being the Next Big Thing make me want to stick Cory Doctorow on a big, brass rocket to the moon. Maybe he'd meet up with some Space Nazis.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:01 AM on December 16, 2008


giraffes giraffes giraffes

('ll see)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:05 AM on December 16, 2008 [4 favorites]

Dieselpunk is replaced by nuclearpunk.
posted by furtive at 6:10 AM on December 16, 2008

Fuel prices will rise. Air travel will become an order of magnitude more expensive, and we will go on endlessly about the "good old days" when we went flying around the globe on pocket change, much to the annoyance of the younger generation. Manufacturing jobs will flow back to the West, due to the increased transportation costs. Cheap plastic junk will practically disappear, leading to us again pestering the younger generation with tales about all the cool stuff we once were able to afford.
posted by Harald74 at 6:19 AM on December 16, 2008

A black man becomes president........OF THE FUTURE
posted by Damn That Television at 6:25 AM on December 16, 2008

I'm deeply disturbed by the "future of Mormonism" link: Their internecine squabbles will be enlivened by debates about... whether Mars is overseen by a different God.

I thought this matter had been settled at the XIV meeting between the Council of Elders and the Scientological Society of Neptune. How can it still be an issue, five years from now?
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:35 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Each country will have their own internet due to the need to police extended copyright and obscenity laws
posted by fatfrank at 6:51 AM on December 16, 2008

Food riots in seven years, cannibalism in nine.
posted by orthogonality at 7:18 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

The hands-free kazoo (which I have just patented) will sweep the indie-music world as it becomes wildly popular with singer-song writers who can't whistle. The trend spreads to large multi-instrumentalist bands when they realize they can strap a kazoo to the violinist, the xylophonist, the drummer, and the theremin player. Look for Sufjan Stevens, Bright Eyes and the Mountain Goats to feature them heavily in 2009, as well as break-through single by TV on the Radio using only vocals, kazoos, and Casio drums.

By early 2010, ridiculously expensive electric models with digital effects pedals pop up in musi stores. The lofi dream is gone and usage quickly declines amongst indie-rockers, except a few who use kazoos as a kind of double ironic instrument and a few die-hard aficionados. By this time, kazoos have "sold out" and briefly are adopted by main-stream rock, pop and hip-hop. Weezer and the Offspring use them in singles.

By 2014, the time is ripe for a revival of vintage, underground hands free kazooing. Beck and Outkast mine the late 00's for groovy samples and also dig into the kazoos rich history in American folk music. A buzzing renaissance ensues.
posted by es_de_bah at 7:20 AM on December 16, 2008 [4 favorites]

"Food riots in seven years, cannibalism in nine."

zombies in eleven...
posted by HuronBob at 7:24 AM on December 16, 2008

The trend spreads to large multi-instrumentalist bands when they realize they can strap a kazoo to the violinist, the xylophonist, the drummer, and the theremin player. Look for Sufjan Stevens, Bright Eyes and the Mountain Goats to feature them heavily in 2009

In all seriousness, Okay's High Road / Low Road double album has one of the best kazoo solos in modern indie rock history.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:29 AM on December 16, 2008

That we're not going to see any major change in health care.
posted by The Whelk at 7:30 AM on December 16, 2008

A worldwide rebellion of armed apes on horseback will be crushed by an army of horses on apeback.

Or maybe that was supposed to happen *falsetto* In The Year 2000.
posted by starman at 7:32 AM on December 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

I don't care what their predictions are, so long as they back them up by speculating 25% of their wealth on assets/stocks/whatever that are relevant to their claims. If they're wrong, I want them to be spectacularly wrong.
posted by anthill at 7:37 AM on December 16, 2008

I feel the dread need to go along with the airline thing. The airlines, after the auto industry, they'll fall apart. They've been doing so for a long time. They kept getting bailed out because the cash was there, and, well, now?

I thought, given the absurdly high oil prices, it would happen relatively soon, but maybe they've got a couple of years of cushion in which they will: do nothing to prepare for the next go round.

I see, sometime in the next decade, fuel goes up again, to the point where fees for checked baggage won't cut it. The airlines as they are will largely collapse, airtravel will be restricted to the ludicrously rich. The rest of us will become dependant on trains and buses. Trans-oceanic passage will largely become the domain of cruise ships, retrofitted to carry as many paying passengers as possible (possibly using the wind sail which has been mentioned recently for large container ships). Given the reliable regularity of reports of ferries capsizing, it will only be a matter of time until corner cutting and cost "management" causes a rash of sinkings from which no survivors will be found. Thousands will perish with each sinking.

However, given the huge number of people (like, uh, me? and bardic? and others?) who live abroad, or have near and dear connections back home, the demand for travel options will not decline. The relative inability of the husks of the remaining airlines will be unable to accomodate the demand. The crush of demand will spur innovation. Perhaps, 5, maybe 10 years after the collapse of the international, or more accurately, trans oceanic transportation industry, something will come along, revolutionizing the whole process. It might not be as fast as a plane was, but it will be cheaper, more efficient, and more accesible.

The period between the collapse of the airlines and the rise of the new mode will be recorded as a temporary dark age, where isolation and ignorance was staved off not by monks and precious books, but by the growing connection we share through the internet.

I vaguely worry that the second part of my prediction is entirely too optimistic.

Of course, seeing as I'd like to go home every once in a while, I hope I'm wrong.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:38 AM on December 16, 2008

US civil liberties become a thing of the past after car bombs claim their 5000th victim.
posted by waraw at 7:39 AM on December 16, 2008

[Redacted due to non-disclosure agreement]
posted by naju at 7:39 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by mek at 7:41 AM on December 16, 2008

We'll start sending nuclear waste to the moon.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:42 AM on December 16, 2008

Also, donkeys become the must have accessory for Hollywood's brightest stars.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:42 AM on December 16, 2008

The future will become the present and then the past.
posted by ericb at 7:43 AM on December 16, 2008

I feel I should answer this question using the magnificent and remarkable language of our new overlords (all hail!): "___|---------ooo o o o –––==|____"
posted by soundofsuburbia at 7:46 AM on December 16, 2008

Newly-appointed Premiere of the Confederation of Asiatic Producers of Oil (CAPO), Vladimir Putin (the capo of CAPO), demands a summit with President Palin. The meeting degenerates into a brawl when President Palin's secret service detail shows up armed with shotguns. CAPO cuts off all supply to the U.S. and its allies.

Sensing opportunity, the Canadian Alliance of Tar Sands Petroleum Exporting Enterprises (CATSPEE) negotiates a stunning deal: in return for exclusive rights to Canadian oil in perpetuity, Canada annexes the entire Northeast region of the U.S, along with states of Washington, Oregon, and California. Vice-president Jeb Bush calls it "a great day for Real America."
posted by googly at 7:55 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

The future will be just like the past, because in the past the future was just like the past.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:05 AM on December 16, 2008

Steampunk will eventually be commercialized to the point where brand name steampunks will be available through hot topic like shops, irritating all the people who are really into it because 90% SP stuff they can find will be over-commericalized garbage aimed at kids who wouldn't know what steampunk was if it bit them in the butt. You know, like what happened to the goths.

OH NOEZ! My trend that was just for me and my elite friends is going to get commercialized! It cannot happen like this! I've still got all this eyeliner left over from last time!
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:12 AM on December 16, 2008

TNH gets this medium like Gretsky, which is to say she skates to where the puck is going to be.

I would have a hard time finding someone who is actually a worse example of a moderator with even more contempt for the community and its participants. Maybe that's the question that Here Comes Clay Shirky should have proposed: Find a worse moderator than Theresa Neilsen Hayden, excluding her own sub-moderators of course.
posted by euphorb at 8:20 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hipsters will lose everything they ever hoped for.
posted by Pecinpah at 8:21 AM on December 16, 2008

The only certainty is that the future will be bat-shit zany. The forward looking will be unsurprised at how incredibly suprising the future is.
posted by MetaMonkey at 8:23 AM on December 16, 2008

Hipsters will lose everything they ever hoped for.

Fortunately we hope only to die young leaving an exquisite corpse and getting fat and becoming a dad really isn't that terrible. We will miss the tapered jeans but it'll be nice being able to finally experience underpants.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:27 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

cannibalism in nine

Ha! I wish I had your patience.

*resumes gnawing*
posted by fleetmouse at 8:31 AM on December 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

This Shirky fellow seems pretty smart, the audience at BoingBoing must be overflowing with people both well-informed and insightful. I expect to finance my early retirement to the Caribbean by quietly betting large sums of money on their predictions.
posted by ghost of a past number at 8:31 AM on December 16, 2008

I will wear shiny, sometimes sparkly, tight plastic clothing.

I mean, I probably will anyway, it's the future we're talking about, but this way I WIN THE PRIZE.

There is a prize, isn't there?

posted by From Bklyn at 8:36 AM on December 16, 2008

I will have a really good sandwich for lunch. No, really. Like, fucking amazing.
posted by piratebowling at 8:41 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I will continue sprinkling baby powder onto all of piratebowling's sandwiches when she's not looking, and she will continue to wonder why she can never seem to find a truly tasty sandwich.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:12 AM on December 16, 2008

Disemvowelling will no longer be seen as so clever and funny. It will finally be almost universally recognized as the childish vehicle for snarky humiliation (and possibly copyright infringement) that it is.
posted by chimaera at 9:18 AM on December 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

I will use my time machine to travel back and replace the baby powder in Greg Nog's shaker with Truly Tasty brand powder.
While there I will also pass myself a copy of the latest Sports Almanac, and cackle evilly.
posted by mannequito at 9:33 AM on December 16, 2008

My comment is here.

Regarding airlines, I don't think it will be as bleak as one might think. There's a simply huge fleet of airplanes - these things have a very long lifespan due to the extremely high standards that airplane manufacturers have continued to maintain. People will continue to run some large fraction of those planes. And governments have a strong incentive to keep that technology going and will figure out a way to keep at least some portion of their airline manufacturers going, even if they have to buy every plane that comes off the assembly line themselves for a few years.

I do see plane flight being like it was when I was a child, when getting in a plane was a Big Deal and expensive enough that you had to save for it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:50 AM on December 16, 2008

The Large Hadron Collider will continue to suffer a plague of mechanical woes, its startup date moving further and further into the future, until it is eventually sold for scrap. The tunnel will be purchased by EuroDisney and become the world's longest "It's A Small World" ride.
posted by An Infinity Of Monkeys at 9:55 AM on December 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

Let's go with something so radical almost no-one here or on Bing Bong even dares to even speak of the possibility. The economy, after a deep recession, will recover, and there will be a new boom. Unscrupulous profiteers will make big profits, but so will a bunch of other folk. Also, I'm planning on actually putting my money where my mouth is, as soon as I have some.
posted by Authorized User at 10:20 AM on December 16, 2008

The Yankees and Cubs will not win the world series, the Brewers, however, will (not this year though :C).
posted by drezdn at 10:20 AM on December 16, 2008

The Detroit Lions will win the super bowl, powered by money accidentally sent their way during the auto bailout.
posted by drezdn at 10:22 AM on December 16, 2008

Seriously: In five years, every single person here will have a cell phone antenna in their house.

In 10 years, 802.11 will be dead.
posted by tkolar at 10:27 AM on December 16, 2008

A lot more people will agree with the statement "America is on the way to being a third world country."

(In before pedantry: Ad hoc definition of "third world country.")

I will not be putting my money where my mouth is, because unlike say, the bosses of Wal-Mart, making the world a shithole for everyone but me isn't my goal.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:29 AM on December 16, 2008

I don't waste time worrying about the future. I already know what's going to happen.
posted by pianomover at 10:49 AM on December 16, 2008

Alien contact.
posted by aapep at 11:02 AM on December 16, 2008

The kids won't be alright.

They may well cannibalize the elders (with good reason?).

(OH, and plastic surgery will be on the RISE in the next few years!)
posted by Surfurrus at 11:03 AM on December 16, 2008

I think that some of these predictions are actually quite plausible.

However, only a few are likely to happen in the next five years.

And this one, unfortunately, is pure wishful thinking.

As for my predictions?

I predict no sweeping changes. It usually takes far longer than 5 years for real, large-scale changes to take place. But here are a few predictions, based on my limited, biased knowledge of the world.

Technology :

Really only incremental changes here, mostly in the consumer arena. They'll invent a few new gadgets that will be appreciated by the rich and people who are really into gadgets. People will get bigger TV sets.

The iphone will become more popular. Its use among the over-30 set will plateaus, because the price will decrease to the point where everyone who wants one will have one. However, it will be a must-have for the younger generation, and this is where Apple will make most of their money. There will eventually be a serious competitor to Apple in this arena, but I doubt that anyone will seriously cut into their market share in the next 5 years. Apple just has too much of a head start here.

Someone will invent some new social thing like Twitter that people over 30 will think is obnoxious, but the kids will go bonkers for. Expect the generation gap to widen.

Facebook will continue to rise in popularity, but I suspect some other service will come and steal its thunder. It has happened before, and it will happen again. Whatever takes over will probably be heavily reliant on mobile devices.

Solar power will continue to decrease in price. It's decreased by a factor of ten in the last decade, and I can only see this trend continuing. However, I doubt that it will supplant hydrocarbons in any appreciable sense within 5 years. Ten years though? I'm willing to bet on it.

Medicine :

A female Viagra will be invented and successfully marketed. Antidepressants will lose some of their luster, as it becomes increasingly clear that regular exercise is just as effective if not more so. More people will quit smoking, and more laws will be passed to shame and humiliate smokers. Diagnosis rates of allergies, especially among children, will continue to increase, and an explanation will continue to be evasive. Measurable progress will be made towards curing cancer and AIDS. The US healthcare system will improve incrementally, but millions will remain uninsured.

Society :

Recession or no recession, people in Western countries will continue to wait until later in life to have kids.

Political :

Obama will do a good job, and it will be near-universally acknowledged. He will probably win a second term. But it's doubtful that he'll accomplish half of what he wanted to, due to massive budget shortfalls.

Global :

Oh jeez.. I don't even want to guess at this, but I'm thinking that Iraq and Afghanistan will still be a mess. However, it will be less of a mess. I think that 5 years from now, we'll be a lot closer to having stable governments in these regions. We certainly will have fewer troops abroad.

I don't expect any progress in Israel/Palestine.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:03 AM on December 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

China will completely eviscerate the American and Japanese automobile industries.
posted by mecran01 at 11:40 AM on December 16, 2008

Boing Boing will continue to exist, and suck.
posted by delmoi at 12:10 PM on December 16, 2008 [5 favorites]

Something will be up with gas prices.
posted by pompomtom at 12:20 PM on December 16, 2008

Christ, Cory Doctorow really is an idiot:
#14 posted by Cory Doctorow , December 15, 2008 2:42 AM

Big budget films will become like opera: vanity projects created by and for the rich in a form of potlatch, buoyed up by a high-flown rhetoric of cultural preservation.
Big-budget films make money; plenty of non-rich people enjoy opera; great music presented in costume is fun and at times sublime, without any need to make excuses about "cultural preservation". And many of the most popular operas have been around for a century or more, because they're wonderful music and excellent librettos. Few "big-budget" films will still have a following a century from now, much less people dedicated to re-staging them.

Jesus, that guy is shallow.
posted by orthogonality at 12:33 PM on December 16, 2008 [5 favorites]

As far as travel is considered I actually see costs going down for flights, but the amounts of places you can fly being cut in more than half. To my understanding the government requires airlines to keep routes open to certain smaller airports, this has the possibility to force them to fly at a loss to some cities. Removing this restriction and requiring a rail option to smaller locations could be more cost effective and easier for the traveler by removing connecting flights.
posted by hexxed at 1:54 PM on December 16, 2008

Plastic surgery will become even more widespread as everyone tries to get their huge gauged ears fixed: People who can't afford it will be stuck with droopy cat's-ass ears.

Tattoo removal will become a serious industry.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:52 PM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Using the popularity of the iPhone for momentum, multi-touch displays will begin to see more share in the market. It may take more than five years, but eventually multi-touch technology will replace the mouse and keyboard in many computing situations, much like the Microsoft Surface project is positioning to do. PCs will continue to branch out into specialized, and uniquely different configurations.

This new multi-touch interface will face serious setbacks, however, when they sometime explode fatally, especially on low-ranking junior officers.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 2:58 PM on December 16, 2008

The problem with requiring rail is that, in a lot of places, the rails no longer exist, or are in such a poor state of disrepair that they are unusable. Totally anecdotal, but my university was a three hour drive from home. Many, many years before, there had been train service, but when I checked into it, I found it was gone, and had near zero chance of returning.

Here's the key: traveling by train can be a pleasant, relaxing way to travel. In many, many other countries, it is. The shinkansen is much better, I think, than flying, in that your train leaves at 10. You get to the station at 9:50. You get on the train. You arrive at your destination on time. With planes, you need to get to the airport two to three hours earlier. Gah. In China, the hard sleeping berths, which are pretty much open bunk beds, are a great way to travel (the hard seats, not so much).

In the States, though, too much rail has been left fallow. The cost of repair, or of even laying down new lines is prohibitive. The rules that give freight the absolute right of way cripple passenger traffic. (And yes, I realize the rails are owned by the freight companies. Yet, aren't they a crucial national resource? Couldn't they legitimately be nationalized?) And of course, the NIBMYism is strong enough to fight against any new lines coming into cities. It needs to happen, but I don't see it happening anytime soon.

In five years, Amtrak will be limping along, just like it is now. Politicians will threaten closing it, still demanding it become profitable, yet doing absolutley nothing to help it.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:07 PM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Faith Popcorn will pass away at a TGI Fridays after her windpipe is obstructed with one of the giant shrimp from her eponymous cocktail.

Although it will be too soon, a member of the waitstaff will not be able to restrain himself from saying, "well, she sure didn't see that coming."
posted by evidenceofabsence at 3:22 PM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

It might not be as fast as a plane was, but it will be cheaper, more efficient, and more accesible.

See? Zeppelins.
posted by hifiparasol at 3:44 PM on December 16, 2008


just kidding
posted by eyeballkid at 3:48 PM on December 16, 2008

In 2013, the Disemvoweling Worm rips through the internet and before you say "wht th fck" all electronic documents are rendered useless. The worm triggers widespread mayhem as everything from the NYSE to medical records are irretrievably destroyed. The virus writer, an angry boing boing commenter, disseminates the worm through a 2.6 million-client botnet of unpatched Windows Vista users. Trigger date: Trs Nlsn Hdn's brthd.
posted by eyeballkid at 4:13 PM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

In America, rail might not make sense compared to air, but it could definitely compete with cars in some areas. For example, if there was an affordable high speed commuter line between Milwaukee and Chicago, both cities would benefit. If that line extended all the way to Madison, it could be huge boon to the whole area.

The opportunities for new rail lines are there too, they just take a bit of imagination. With a little bit of work, it wouldn't be that hard to run rail between the east and west lanes of the interstate.
posted by drezdn at 5:06 PM on December 16, 2008

I agree with you, drezdn, that it takes imagination, and work, but it also takes a lot of money, which is something that, at the moment, is not around. When it is around, it tends to get spent on other things.

Ideally, there would be a series of regional systems of rail, each with connections to other hubs for long distance travel. Already, there is the somewhat functioning northeast system, linking NYC and Washington. In the Midwest, there is train linking Detroit and Chicago, and Chicago and Minneapolis. Expand that to include Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Iowa City, and all the points in between. Create a viable southern network connecting the Carolines, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. It could be done, and it should be done, but the cost is high, and the will, I think, is entirely lacking.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:30 PM on December 16, 2008

1. 50MB broadband will be common, thanks to people not dropping their internet during the 2007-2010 recession.

2. Vegetable gardening will have been huge (thanks to the recession), but people will start turning away from it because they have money again and don't want to be seen like "poor" people who grow their own food.

3. Universities will not collapse, but the decline will have started. You'll start seeing online credentials take hold, based on free classes offered through major universities via online video/audio. Universities will sneer at them, and people will remind them this is how it started with newspapers.

4. Newspapers will survive. But they'll mostly be about giving people something to read on the new public transit systems Obama's administration will build as part of the stimulus package.

5. The Seattle Mariners will not have had a winning season since 2007.
posted by dw at 7:40 PM on December 16, 2008

Sorry for stating the obvious, but those Boing Boing people are operating in another dimension aren't they? Most of the stuff on there is completely bonkers (and written with such fervent belief!).
posted by debord at 8:59 PM on December 16, 2008

Oh, and this prediction is a load of hokum. The assumption the commenter is making is that the big universities make their money off teaching. They don't. They are powered by NSF and NIH grants as well as some huge private money NFPs and NGOs, folks that lost money in the crash but still have considerable cash on hand.

As such, the likelihood of "colleges and universities will be unable to keep pace with the exorbitant and ever-increasing cost of professional knowledge creation" is just about nil. They may become leaner, but places like Washington and Michigan have been operating leanly for years. The research component of higher education may contract (thanks to global competition), but it will not go away.

The teaching mission, though, will get pressure from all sides. California and New York are already facing a gutting of higher education. Tuition will rise during a period when banks are sticking with very tight credit. Alternatives to the classical four year Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science will start to appear, with orgs running with the "open source education" model. And you'll have orgs who will serve as "credentializers," who combine online classes (from many universities) with forums and interaction and measurable core competencies to create virtual degree programs.

But I really don't the "virtual degree" program will be the way to go in five years. I think the residential experience will remain. I think, though, you'll start seeing colleges position themselves as either "research magnets" (for future scientists) or as places with excellent customer services (with heavy investment in student services and people to provide 1:1 guidance). It won't be like newspapers, though, where the shift happened in 7 years. Higher ed moves slower, so I think it'll take a generation for the shift to really endanger residential colleges.
posted by dw at 9:36 PM on December 16, 2008

#12 posted by Lloydville, December 15, 2008 2:08 AM

An explosion of popular interest in the Victorian world, of which steampunk is just the vanguard, the tip of the iceberg. In the future it will no longer be necessary to inflect one's interest in Victoriana with irony, as steampunk does. There will be a concurrent explosion of popular interest in silent films, those flickering echoes of the Victorian age. Finally, Arthur Freed will be considered an auteur producer of equal rank with Walt Disney and val Lewton.

Wow. The readers of Boing Boing live in such a strange, otherworldly dimension that I'm not sure if they'll look outside their windows and notice the future when it happens.
posted by mmoncur at 9:38 PM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

You say that like the readers of Metafilter don't.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:28 PM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

BoingBoing: The haters and random trolls were simply too much
posted by lukemeister at 5:25 AM on December 17, 2008

The readers of Boing Boing live in such a strange, otherworldly dimension

It's called the 90s.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:52 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

The 1890s.
posted by lukemeister at 10:27 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

A couple of general predictions...

Less-discussed global warming effects:

Massive tree die-offs, especially in Canada and in Colorado, due to pine beatle infestations, increasing diseases, etc... and increasing widespread pest problems that effect numerous other forms of plantlife and animals. We'll see a marked increase in other pests such as gypsy moths, weevils, aphids, spider mites, mosquitoes, and even locusts. Parts of the southeast will begin to become more tropical and humid, and will develop more tropical diseases. Invasive plants such as kudzu will move further north, while others will choke rivers and waterways, which will have higher levels of parasites and microorganisms, some of which will decimate species of fish.

Ordinarily, this growth of pests would effect crops disproportionately, but patented resistant crops will rise to the challenge and hold many of these potential causes of famine at bay. Unfortunately, lots of other forms of plant and animal life will not be so lucky, and eradication efforts will be increasingly overwhelmed and unpopularly invasive, impacting suburban communities. Numerous native species of plants and wildlife will be decimated as a result.

Humans will similarly suffer from increased pest-based illnesses such as lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and others. Diseases will increase the zone that they typically extend to because of changing, more favorable climates to a wide variety of pests.


The standard mouse will be fundamentally redesigned, with minute pressure-sensitive designs that make it no longer necessary to drag and perhaps even click. It will become little more than a stationary , occasionally artistically-designed ergonomic handrest. Increased use of touchscreen monitor technology will also lead to small wireless rechargable mouse designs that interact directly with monitors, and the next generation of intelligent, tactile, force-feedback gloves that will be highly functional and put the early VR gloves to shame. Monitors will start to move more commonly towards 3-D, and we'll see a lot of the hype of the early VR days finally start to pay off, as younger people especially grow up sculpting, shaping, and designing virtual items via force-feedback which they will use in online worlds, much like some do today with SecondLife.

Faster, cheaper data storage will make a computer's memory and a computer's data storage practically synonomous. The level of performance of standard data storage will lead people to stop being as concerned as to how much memory they have on their systems.

For at least a few years, the biggest limiting factor for PCs will become electricity consumption. especially when manufacturers face increased expectations and possible regulation for decreased energy consumption. Graphics cards will be seen as the biggest bottleneck in this regard, with the high-end cards increasingly powered independently or even externally. Eventually, this concentration with performance and lower power consumption will lead to systems with onboard graphics that don't suck.

We'll continue to see the anti-piracy forces push for voluntary "three strike" policing by the ISPs, who will otherwise face the threat of legislation and lawsuits. This will increasingly lead to "us vs. them" feelings amongst consumers, and could lead to the widespread adoption of applications designed to prevent ISPs from invading their privacy. A greater percentage of piracy will become "friend-to-friend", over secure, encrypted online storage, or encrypted storage scattered across numerous drives on the 'net. People will essentially "drag files" to a shared folder out on the 'net somewhere -- or have automated processes do this kind of sharing for them -- and routinely go through the latest things that their friends have similarly shared, watched, or listened to, and this media will oftentimes be streamable. As a result, music and video piracy will be increasingly a matter of illegally streaming content across the 'net. There will be increasing talk of good vs. bad ISPs, and of ones who turn a blind eye vs. others that don't. There will also be increasing public discussion of the need for a political solution and an end to the piracy and copyright squabbles, which will unfortunately be slow in coming in this country.
posted by markkraft at 11:02 AM on December 17, 2008

Oh, and biofuels will become widespread, thanks largely to genetically manipulated forms of tall grasses, which will grow on land not traditionally viewed as prime agricultural lands.

All this talk of limiting factors regarding biofuel will disappear, as people realize that it's quite possible to grow all of our fuel, or even produce it in labratories, thanks to discoveries that mimic natual processes in plants, animals, etc.

Corn ethanol will disappear.
posted by markkraft at 11:16 AM on December 17, 2008

The 1890s.
posted by lukemeister

No, they're not that interesting.
posted by The Whelk at 11:26 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

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